“We’re all in this together.” Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this phrase has served to comfort and unite us.

Stuck inside, navigating childcare, managing the stress of recent unemployment, or answering Zoom calls in our pyjamas, we take solace in the fact that our neighbours are hunkered down alongside us. Yet, this refrain obscures an uncomfortable and urgent fact: home has never been safe for everyone.

In Canada, a woman is killed by her intimate partner approximately once a week. Globally, more than one in three women have reported experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). As a result of systemic inequities, transgender women, non-binary people, Indigenous women, and women with physical and cognitive disabilities are at an increased risk.

While gender-based violence is not new, there has been a worldwide increase in rates during the pandemic. Many women and girls are forced to isolate with their abusers, with limited access to critical supports. Heightened food insecurity, economic instability, and increased stress on families may exacerbate conflicts and violence in the home. Across Canada, nine women have been killed by a current or former intimate partner since the start of April alone.

At the same time, front-line shelters — including our local Kelowna Women’s Shelter — have seen a significant loss in revenue, as they have been unable to host essential fundraising events or accept physical donations. This has tremendous community impact. On any given day in 2019, over 5,400 women and 3,500 children across Canada accessed shelters to escape violence.

Here in Kelowna, 279 women and children spent at least one night in the shelter last year. Despite new challenges, shelters have continued to operate throughout the pandemic and provide essential services to survivors.

The Kelowna Women’s Safety Initiative is an online fundraising campaign organized by UBC medical students volunteering to support the shelter during this crisis. The initiative aims to call attention to the spike in IPV during the pandemic, as well as raise funds to support survivors.

Donations help this vital community organization provide services to women and their children who have experienced violence, including free food, shelter, and counselling. All funds are processed electronically and go directly to the shelter.

From June 1 until June 30, the initiative is also hosting a silent auction fundraiser, featuring items generously donated by local businesses, artists, and artisans.

Today marks the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, and intimate partner violence remains a pressing public health issue.

COVID-19 has not impacted us all equally, but we each have an integral role to play in ending violence in our community.

Today and everyday, we must act in solidarity with those experiencing violence and the community heroes that work to support them. Whether you donate to the cause, spread the word, or act as a safe space for someone to talk to, we can all be a part of positive change. We can do it now, and we can do it together.

Visit trellis.org/kwscovid19 to learn more and contribute to the campaign.

If you or someone you know may be suffering under domestic abuse or violence, call the women’s shelter 24/7 resource line for help and information at 250-763-1040. For more information about shelter programs and services, visit kelownawomensshelter.ca

Emily Wiesenthal is a member of the Kelowna Women’s Safety Initiative and a medical student at UBC.